Against a growing tide of popular support for medical marijuana, the Tennessee Department of Health issued an advisory warning Thursday to state residents that cannabis is an addictive substance that can cause schizophrenia.
The advisory, which also targets “products derived from cannabis” such as hemp, says that marijuana is more potent today than before and can cause low birth weights and accidental deaths.
It also says there are only a “limited number of conditions” where medical literature shows evidence for using cannabis-derived medications: nausea from chemotherapy, spasms from multiple sclerosis and chronic neuropathic pain.
“Outside of these conditions, there is not sufficient evidence to show that any forms of cannabis, including marijuana and hemp, are safe and effective as medications.”
One citation is a 2017 study funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs which says that THC, an active ingredient in marijuana, is helpful for post-traumatic stress disorder.
The advisory is nothing new, says state Rep. Bob Ramsey.
A bill for medical marijuana is considered every year, he said, and every year the Department of Health objects to that consideration.
One such bill was introduced this year by state Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, and would have created a state registration system, as well as a new state board. Dickerson withdrew the proposal in April, citing a lack of the necessary support.
Ramsey himself says he wants to “continue a discussion” about medical cannabis, which he says could be useful particularly for veterans and seniors with mental illness.
“I want to allow input from the Department of Health, but I don’t want their stand to stop the discussion,” he said.
He added that legalizing recreational marijuana is “something I would never want to entertain.”
A Middle Tennessee State University poll from April found that 81 percent of Tennessee voters polled supported legalization to some extent, while 37 percent said marijuana should be legal for personal use, and 44 percent said marijuana should only be legal for medicinal purposes.
Sixteen percent said marijuana should remain illegal altogether.